Freedom, Discipline and Behaviour Management in the Montessori classroom

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“When the child is given freedom to move about in a world of objects, he is naturally inclined to perform the tasks necessary for his development entirely on his own.”

~ M.Montessori “Education and Peace”

child whispering to another child

Elements of freedom and discipline in the Montessori classroom

No one can be completely free while they are dependent. Manifestations of the desire for independence can be observed early in a child’s life. Freedom and independence are intertwined – independence is essential for freedom. The teacher’s task is to remove obstacles on the way to independence.

The identity of the child can only be formed in the process of his “work“. In the Montessori classroom, at first, the child gains freedom as an individual, and then it grows into the ability to be a part of the community.

This freedom comes from within and manifests as self-control. It is important to emphasize that the child commits positive behavior and positive actions not due to external reinforcement and rewards. The child gains inner satisfaction from performing positive actions due to his nature. The child does not need external validation of his actions from others as he is able to form a personal judgment of his actions. It means external rewards or punishment are not necessary.

Elements of freedom in the Montessori classroom

“Without freedom it is impossible for personality to develop fully.Freedom is the key to the entire process, and the first step comes when the individual is capable of acting without help from others and becomes aware of himself as an autonomous being.”

~ M. Montessori Education and Peace

  • Freedom of choice. Allowing children to have freedom of choice is a demonstration of respect for the child’s development. The desire to have the freedom to choose is driven by:

– will to gain experience

– the teacher who connects the child to the environment and material

– gaining more knowledge

The child is eager to try to experiment with everything in the classroom. The fact that the child makes his own choice of work is very significant since it is his DECISION. It is not easy to make a decision, it requires inner motivation and inner work.

  • Freedom to work. As was mentioned before, personality forms through the process of work. A prepared environment offers a wide range of specific activities that promote freedom of work. Work is a foundation of freedom because work requires the child to follow certain rules and directions. Freedom does not mean the child can do what they please. Freedom is understanding rules and limits for actions. (For example, putting work back on the shelf after completing it gives freedom to choose the next activity). Allowing a child to do whatever he likes before he gains self-control destroys the idea of freedom.
  • Freedom of time. There is no timetable for lessons in the Montessori classroom. The child is allowed to work with material as long as he wants to and at his own pace. Often child likes to do the same activity over and over again. It allows him to build deeper concentration in the process of continuous repetition. In addition, it encourages him to develop a stronger character, since he has more time to keep trying until he works it out. It also helps the ability to overcome challenges.
  • Freedom of movement. Every work with the material in the classroom involves movement. The child is not forced to sit and listen. He is free to observe, then to work independently. In addition, a child is able to move freely without disturbing others’ work.
  • Freedom to eat and drink. The Montessori classroom always has a place where the child can have a snack or a drink at any time he wishes.
  • Freedom of communication and interaction. The children are free to work together upon mutual agreement if it does not destruct others’ work.
  • Freedom to help each other.

Elements of discipline in the Montessori classroom

There is only one type of each material in the classroom (there is only one Pink Tower or Red Rod activity).

It has great benefits:
– the work becomes special
– it develops patience since a child has to wait for his turn
– it develops respect for others

The child has to return work back where he found it after completing working with it as an expression of respect for the other children.

Work is not considered finished until the material is put back in its original place.

Every material has a purpose and meaning.

The child is welcome to experiment with material as long as it fits its purpose. For example, the child can create various shapes using the Red Rods, but should not use those as a pretend gun. Sometimes teacher allows certain child’s experiments unless those experiments can hurt other children or the environment. Then it has to be immediately stopped.

Behavior management

Maria Montessori believed that misbehavior originates from a child’s environment, circumstances and surroundings:
defects in character, disappear of themselves…One does not need to threaten or cajole, but only to ‘normalizing the conditions under which the child lives.” Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child

In the Montessori environment, behavior management is done in the form of redirecting and gluing.

You can read more about it here: Gluing and Redirecting Behavior in the Montessori Classroom

“With careful observations, “earnest words”, spontaneous work, commitment to the Montessori philosophy and principles, the Montessori teacher is able to successfully redirect and refocus student behavior…
Gluing is when the teacher keeps a child close to her before inviting the child to find an appropriate work.
It gives the child time to refocus and observe others working in the Montessori classroom. It is a way to re-center and calm themselves so that they may work effectively in the classroom.”

Reference: Russian Montessori Society

Here is a list of Montessori books that might help you in your Montessori journey

Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful: Preventing Exclusion in the Early Elementary Classroom

Charting the progress of twelve children in a real Texas classroom, educator Donna Goertz shows how positive change can occur given the proper environment. In each case she describes a child’s transformation from destructive troublemaker to responsible citizen of the classroom community. Readers will learn how to apply Montessori methods to virtually any early elementary environment”.

Teaching Montessori in the Home: Pre-School Years: The Pre-School Years

“Claim quality togetherness with your child and fully enjoy the sensitive and formative years from two to five by adopting proven teaching techniques in your own home. This acclaimed guide puts the entire range of the Montessori system within your reach, so you can make the most of your child’s vital years.”

Montessori Today: A Comprehensive Approach to Education from Birth to Adulthood 

Claim quality togetherness with your child and fully enjoy the sensitive and formative years from two to five by adopting proven teaching techniques in your own home. This acclaimed guide puts the entire range of the Montessori system within your reach, so you can make the most of your child’s vital years.”

Child of the World: Montessori, Global Education for Age 3-12+

“Imagine a Montessori text in your home library which guides your putting together a child’s corner in every room according to the same principles used by Montessori educators for more than a century. Activities are described to match your child’s precise ages and stages providing authentic environments for choice and stimulating engagement. This little book can change your life with its practical wisdom. It will help you create conditions favorable to peaceful coexistence”.

‘This post is featured by Twinkl in their ‘Behaviour Management in the Classroom‘ blog’.

books about positive discpipline

  About Anastasia. Anastasia is a former Early Childhood Teacher and the founder of Montessori Nature, a blog about Montessori - inspired and Nature-based explorations. She taught in a Montessori setting for 10 years and has been practicing the Montessori way of learning and living for the last 20 years. She loves designing engaging educational printables for children. Browse Anastasia's educational resources on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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